Answer Man: Learn the finer points of the man hug

News-DemocratJuly 22, 2013 

Q. You recently explained the finer points of shaking hands with left-handers. How about men hugging? There are occasions when two men may need to hug -- maybe a friend you haven't seen for a long time. But what is the proper procedure? For example, the heads -- do I go left and he goes right or vice versa? -- T.J., of Collinsville

A. With all the important occasions requiring a cordial yet dignified man hug -- political heads of state, sports champs and also-rans, movie Mafiosi -- you'd think some etiquette expert would have addressed this critical subject.

But, no, the Vanderbilts, Posts, et al., seem to be silent -- sadly obvious in the awkward embraces often captured on film. So, with the help of one progressive website, let me go where few men seem to have gone before and address the typical meet-and-greet man hug.

At www.artofmanliness.com, you'll see hilarious examples of what I'm talking about. There's a picture of Arizona Sen. John McCain, for example, looking like he's about to nuzzle President George Bush. And two basketball players, one with arms on top of his head and appearing to think, "Please, let this be over with already!" as another hugs him.

It doesn't have to be like this, Brett and Kate McKay insist. And to help you, they offer a hilarious -- but instructional -- four-minute VideoJug piece from England on how to give the perfect quick but sincere man hug.

"The modern world is a complex place for many men," it begins. "And to make things even more confusing, along comes the man hug, an unabashed show of affection to your fellow man. If you don't hug, you may be accused of not being secure in your sexuality. This isn't the case. You've just never been shown how to carry out the man-to-man hug."

At which point, of course, the video starts to do exactly that from the occasions when a hug is called for to the step-by-step procedure.

First, make it clear what you are going to do by raising your arms, with your right about 8 inches higher than your left. Lean back a trifle and tilt your head to the left. This tells the huggee where you are going and, hopefully, prevents a serious noggin-bashing. (I noticed Andy Murray followed these tips to the letter when he hugged Novak Djokovic after winning Wimbledon.)

Next, engage in a warm, sincere embrace for a second or two. ("There is nothing worse than a floppy, half-hearted attempt.") However, keep your head level and look straight; turning your head inward or looking down may result in that appearance of nuzzling.

When you're ready to break the hug, firmly pat (or lightly punch) the huggee two or three times on the back. This, they say, is the most important part, because it differentiates the brief man hug from cuddling.

After the final pat, remove your hands quickly and cleanly from the huggee's body and step back. Or grip the huggee on the upper arms, and say something like "Congratulations" or "Good to see you."

"This makes the reason for the hug clear and finishes it succinctly."

Variations exist, of course. After the break, younger men might want to throw some playful air punches at each other. The McKays even offer a somewhat less all-out American man hug. But from all of this, I hope you can develop a method you can embrace.

Q. Why is it we never see baby squirrels? Do they remain in the nest until fully grown? -- F.W., of Fairview Heights

A. You've pretty much hit the nut on the head. After carrying her babies for roughly 40 to 45 days, Mama Gray Squirrel typically gives birth to a litter of three to seven in a nest carefully hidden from view in a tree.

There, the youngsters will remain as the mother, who is abandoned by her mate, cares for them. Born hairless with eyes closed and ear flaps folded, the babies nurse for about 10 weeks, growing rapidly.

By that time, they are close to adult-size so when they do venture out for the first time, you may not notice the difference. Just a short time later, mama usually shoos them away from the area, and they're on their own, another reason you'd probably never recognize them as babies.

So, unless you know where a nest is, you may never see a baby squirrel. In fact, if you do see one -- or hear them crying -- it usually means something has happened to mom and they are in need of an expert versed in baby squirrel care.

Today's trivia

"Emoticons" are those popular (some would say overused) representations of the human face used in a manuscript to convey human emotion - a smiley face, for example. According to some experts, when were the first emoticons proposed?

Answer to Sunday's trivia: When duffel bags were first made, the large, cylindrical bags often were fashioned from a heavy, woolen cloth manufactured in Duffel, Belgium - hence, their name. Located in northern Belgium, it has a population of about 16,000.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com.

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